Lived experts lead on developing a new way of tackling poverty



A group of people with lived experience of financial insecurity have co-produced a theory of thriving with national poverty charity, Turn2us, and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge; determining that income alone is not enough to be able to thrive.

The newly published report, created by 16 people with lived experience and a further 1,500 survey respondents, outlines an alternative approach to thriving, and how to measure it.  The key findings reveal how money is just one of three main factors that impact a person’s ability to thrive. They include the practical means, which is money for food and bills, health and housing; social conditions such as freedom from discrimination; and an ability to be able to explore what and how we want to live our lives. The report outlines that when these things are realised, we may then experience a feeling of purpose, sense of freedom and, most importantly, strong relationships with others. Together they create an environment in which people can thrive. 

In contrast to the traditional expert-led approach, ‘the theory of thriving’ model ensures policy is sensitive to the values and perspectives of people who are affected by it and responsive to their needs. Being produced by people with lived experience improves its legitimacy, ensuring their voices are heard during the critical development of wellbeing public policy.  It identifies three key themes – means, process, and outcomes – that together articulate what a person experiencing financial insecurity needs to thrive. This new approach to understanding better what it means to ‘thrive and not just survive’ will enable anti-poverty charities and policy makers within government to act at the cutting edge of anti-poverty programmes, policy, advocacy and practice.

Dr Mark Fabian from the Bennett Institute comments: “Co-production brings together people with lived experience, technical experts, and practitioners, and facilitates power sharing and learning across these groups. This ensures that any policy produced centres the value judgements of the stakeholders, is rigorous, and can be immediately applied in practical work. Ultimately, if we are serious about wellbeing policy, we need to respect the rich lived experience of people who have been through financial insecurity.”

Toni Coley, one of the project team with lived experience, comments: “I think the research is at the cutting edge of inclusive and real anti-poverty strategies. This is clearly achieved through the invaluable research project that holds co-production partners at the core of the material that has informed the outcome focused delivery of the work.  The tree as a visual model of the research serves to demystify an otherwise complex process.”

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive at Turn2us, comments: “This co-produced model of thriving means charities can act decisively when designing their programmes and service delivery, as well as any political influencing work. By knowing what someone needs so they can thrive, it has the potential to act as a foundation for the government to build and plan social policies.

“The three groups of experts involved in this theory have been part of a year-long process to develop this model, with co-production being the main driving force.  This is one of the most fundamentally important aspects of the resulting work because it is so vital services for people are created in partnership with them.  Only this approach can inform programmes that tackle poverty so we can all thrive.”

Turn2us and the Bennett Institute believe there is potential for the theory of thriving work to define what anti-poverty success looks like both within Turn2us and potentially across the sector. They hope to engage in further rounds of co-production with other interested parties so that the model is relevant to other charities. 

Read our Model of Thriving report.